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Modernist InformaticsLiterature, Information, and the State$
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James Purdon

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780190211691

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: November 2015

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780190211691.001.0001

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Information Collectives

Information Collectives

Chapter:
(p.89) 3. Information Collectives
Source:
Modernist Informatics
Author(s):

James Purdon

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780190211691.003.0004

Chapter 3 deals with the Mass-Observation movement founded in 1937 by the anthropologist Tom Harrisson, the poet Charles Madge, and the filmmaker Humphrey Jennings. It seeks to understand the paranoia and insecurity arising when, instead of generating networks of difference amenable to disinterested enquiry into the nature of the modern state, information networks are co-opted by government power in order to define and produce a unified conception of national identity. Investigating both the Mass-Observation movement itself and its representation in writing by G. W. Stonier, John Sommerfield, and others, this chapter considers the relationship between paranoia, information, and security during the Second World War, and elaborates the connection between Mass-Observation and the wider documentary movement of the 1930s, identifying pathologies of state paranoia in the cultural production of Great Britain between the wars, when the country was engaged in an extended project of introspection and self-analysis.

Keywords:   Mass-Observation, paranoia, Second World War, G. W. Stonier, John Sommerfield

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